Kauai News

Visitor Numbers Continue Creeping Toward Record 2019 Levels

By Tom Hasslinger

Posted March 31, 2022, 11:18 AM HST ·Updated March 31, 11:17 AM

An increase in a number of key statistics in the latest visitor’s report indicates that Hawai‘i continues its trajectory toward a full tourism rebound.

Figures from February 2022 show that visitor numbers and expenditures are blowing February 2021’s totals out of the water, and inching their way to 2019 levels, the year the state experienced record visitor numbers.

The pandemic from March 2020 though 2021 drastically impacted the number of travelers to the state, of course, so 2019 figures remain a better gage toward monitoring full economic recovery than any figure pulled from the pandemic time period. February 2020 is considered a  pre-pandemic month.

The state’s Safe Travels Program ended March 26, and the return of international travel is a big reason why the upward trend continues, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, or DBEDT.

The reopened international market is also why economic experts expect Hawai‘i’s economy to increase 3.4% in 2022, despite high inflation.

“Visitors spent $1.3 billion in February which was 10% more per person, per day than in 2019, even though statewide we saw less visitor arrivals,” said Mike McCartney, DBEDT director, the office which released the February 2022 figures on Thursday. “We expect Hawai‘i to continue with this forward momentum, especially into spring then into summer, because of the arrival of Japanese visitors and other international markets.”

The report shows that 2,181 visitors came from Japan in February 2022, compared to 695 visitors (+214.0%) in February 2021, 124,122 visitors (-98.2%) in February 2020, and 120,653 visitors (-98.2%) in February 2019.

Visitors from Japan spent $8.1 million in February 2022, compared to $2.4 million (+234.8%) in February 2021, $168.5 million (-95.2%) in February 2020, and $165.5 million (-95.1%) in February 2019.

On the Garden Isle, numbers were reflective of that trend.

There were 88,428 visitors to Kaua‘i in February 2022, compared to 7,349 visitors (+1,103.2%) in February 2021, 110,478 visitors (-20.0%) in February 2020, and 104,445 visitors (-15.3%) in February 2019.

Visitor spending was $149.3 million, compared to $29.7 million (+403.4%) in February 2021, $168.6 million (-11.5%) in February 2020, and $152.8 million (-2.3%) in February 2019.

“With the lifting of the Safe Travels program, Hawai‘i will need to prepare for hosting a different mix of visitors,” McCarthy said. “There will be demand by local businesses; from restaurants, transportation, retail, activities and lodging, to attract and retain a quality workforce for Hawai‘i which will bring more certainty to the economy. There is now an opportunity for Hawai‘i’s small businesses to attract and retain quality workers and employees.

In February 2022, visitors from Canada were 29,046, compared to 493 visitors (+5,796.1%) in February 2021, 65,352 visitors (-55.6%) in February 2020, and 66,590 visitors (-56.4%) in February 2019.

Visitors from Canada spent $78.7 million in February 2022, compared to $2.3 million (+3,386.8%) in February 2021, $148.2 million (-46.9%) in February 2020, and $153.0 million (-48.6%) in February 2019.

Total spending by visitors who came to the islands in February 2022 was $1.31 billion, compared to $397.1 million (+229.9%) spent in February 2021.

A full list and tables of the report can be seen here.

“As HTA refines and implements their Destination Management Plans, it will take a collaboration with the counties to find the balance and ensure that the community is an integral part of the process as we all move towards a regenerative visitor industry,” McCarthy added.

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Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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